Joanna Brady stepped to the doorway of the screened back porch and stared out into the night. The moonlit sky was a pale gray above the jagged black contours of the Mule Mountains ten miles away. September's daytime heat had peeled away from the high Sonoran Desert of southeastern Arizona, and Joanna shivered as she stood still, listening to yipping coyotes and watching for traffic on the highway a mile and a half away. Beside her, Sadie, Joanna's gangly blue-tick hound, listened as well, her tail thumping happily on the worn, wooden floor of the porch."Where is he, girl?" Joanna asked. "Where's Andy?" Happy to have someone speaking to her, the dog once more thumped her long tail.Up on the highway, a pair of headlights rounded the long curve and emerged from the mountain pass. Speeding tires keened down the blacktop, passing the Double Adobe turnoff without even slowing down. That one wasn't him, either. Disappointed, Joanna sighed and went back inside, taking the dog with her.In the living room she could hear the drone of her mother's favorite television game show while Jennifer, her daughter, was eating dinner in the kitchen."Is Daddy coming now?" Jennifer asked.Joanna shook her head. "Not yet," she answered, trying to conceal the hurt and anger in her voice. She kicked off her heels, poured herself another cup of coffee, and settled into the breakfast nook opposite her blonde, blue-eyed daughter. At nine, Jenny was a female mirror image of her father.Despite Joanna's soothing words to the contrary, Jennifer assessed her mother's mood with uncanny accuracy. "Are you mad at him?" she asked."A little," Joanna admitted reluctantly. A lot was more like it, she thought. It was a hell of a thing to be stood up like this on your own damn wedding anniversary, especially when Andy himself had insisted on the date and had made all the arrangements. He was the one who had first suggested, and then insisted, that they get a room at the hotel and spend the night, reliving their comic opera wedding night from ten years before.At the time Andy had suggested it, Joanna had asked him if he was sure. For one thing, staying in the hotel would cost a chunk of money, an added expense they could ill afford. For another, there was time. Not only was Andy a full-time deputy for the Cochise County Sheriff's department, he was also running for sheriff against his longtime boss, Walter McFadden.The election was now less than six weeks away. Joanna had been through enough campaigns with her father to know that conserving both energy and focus was vital that close to election day. In the meantime, Joanna had her own job to worry about. Milo Davis, the owner of the insurance agency where she worked as office manager, had offered her a partnership. To that end he had started sending her out on more and more sales calls, letting her earn commission over and above her office-duty pay. But it meant that she, too, was essentially holding down two full-time jobs.Joanna was the first to admit that between the two of them, she and Andy had precious little time to spend together, but staying in the hotel overnight seemed to be overdoing it. Andy, however, had laughed aside all Joanna's objections and told her to be ready at six when he'd come by to pick her up.Well, six had long since come and gone and he still wasn't home. Eleanor Lathrop, Joanna's mother, had been at the house watching television since five-thirty. Since six sharp, Joanna's small packed suitcase had sat forlornly by the back door, joined now by her discarded shoes, but at seven forty-five, Andrew Roy Brady was still nowhere to be found.
J. A. Jance (Author)
New York Times bestselling author J.A. Jance was born in South Dakota, brought up in Bisbee, Arizona, and now lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington and Tucson, Arizona. Her PerfectBound e-books include the Joanna Brady Mysteries: Desert Heat, Outlaw Mountain, Devil's Claw, Paradise Lost; and the J.P. Beaumont Mysteries: Until Proven Guilty, Breach of Duty, Birds of Prey. Brady and Beaumont team up in Partner in Crime, and PerfectBound publishes as well Jance's famous mystery novels Kiss of the Bees and Hour of the Hunter (February 2003).